Inventions can have unintended consequences. Their creators might have good intentions in the beginning. They might justify or rationalize their actions. Later, some express regret. For example:
- Kamran Loghman (pepper spray): “I have never seen such an inappropriate and improper use of chemical agents.”
- Mikhail Kalashnikov (AK-47 rifle): “I keep coming back to the same questions. If my rifle claimed people’s lives, can it be that I…, an Orthodox believer, am to blame for their deaths, even if they are my enemies?”
- Alfred Nobel (dynamite): “Perhaps my dynamite plants will put an end to war sooner than your [pacifist] congresses. On the day two army corps can annihilate each other in one second all civilized nations will recoil from war in horror.”
- J. Robert Oppenheimer (atomic bomb): “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.“
Likewise, some responsible for creating modern social media now have regrets.
Chamath Palihapitiya is a former senior executive at Facebook.
I feel tremendous guilt. …we kind of knew something bad could happen. … we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.
The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth and it’s not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.
My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore.
I can control my decisions, which is I don’t use this [expletive]. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is they’re not allowed to use this [expletive].
You don’t realize it but you are being programmed.
Antonio Garcia-Martinez was a Facebook product manager (2011-2013)
The ethics of Facebook’s micro-targeted advertising was thrust into the spotlight this week by a report out of Australia. The article, based on a leaked presentation, said that Facebook was able to identify teenagers at their most vulnerable, including when they feel “insecure”, “worthless”, “defeated” and “stressed”.
Facebook claimed the report was misleading, assuring the public that the company does not “offer tools to target people based on their emotional state”. If the intention of Facebook’s public relations spin is to give the impression that such targeting is not even possible on their platform, I’m here to tell you I believe they’re lying through their teeth.
Evan Williams is a Twitter founder and a co-creator of Blogger.
“I think the internet is broken, and it’s a lot more obvious to a lot of people that it’s broken. I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.”
From the Time article:
The trouble with the internet, Mr. Williams says, is that it rewards extremes. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply them.
Sean Parker is the founding president of Facebook.
God only knows what it’s doing to to our children’s brains. …we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post… you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.
Me, Mark [Zuckerberg], Kevin Systrom at Instagram… All of these people understood this consciously and we did it anyway.
Evan Spiegel, Snap CEO
The personalized newsfeed revolutionized the way people share and consume content. But let’s be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry.
The combination of social and media has yielded incredible business results, but has ultimately undermined our relationships with our friends and our relationships with the media.
David Ginsberg is Facebook’s Director of Research.
The bad: In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook. A study from UC San Diego and Yale found that people who clicked on about four times as many links as the average person, or who liked twice as many posts, reported worse mental health than average in a survey.
Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone:
“We made a mistake when we added the Mentions tab,” Stone told Inc. “All of a sudden, you could see anyone who was mentioning you on the site. We put the onus on users to block someone.” Stone, who left Twitter in 2011, says the company could have largely avoided becoming a so-called “Honeypot for Assholes”.